Saturday, February 12, 2011

Movie Rewiew: Oscar Nominated Shorts

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This weekend I had the chance to do something different for the movie going experience. My regular theater was showing Gnomeo and Juliet but the competing art house type theater was showing the 2011 Oscar nominated shorts. Although the poster showed Animated, Live Action and Documentary, they didn't show the latter and each of the categories was a separate ticket. So I spent double the usual amount for this weeks review, but I thought the price would be reasonable considering that many people considered these films the best of the best.

This presentation was not the usual formula for movie attendance. The theater remained lit until they pressed play on what looked like a Blu-Ray disc. No slides, no sound, no trailers, no warnings about fire exits, smoking or turning off of cell phones. There was a quick title card showing what I was attending first which was the Animated Shorts and then into the selections. BTW, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a shorts as "A short film is defined as an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits." To see the complete criteria Click Here.

The animated selections were as follows:
  • Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage, France, 11 minutes
  • Let's Pollute, USA, 6 minutes
  • The Gruffalo, UK/Germany, 27 minutes
  • The Lost Thing, Australia, 15 minutes
  • Day & Night, USA, 6 minutes
Also included were two other Highly Recommended films which were:
  • URS, Germany, 10 minutes
  • The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger, USA, 6 minutes
Madagascar, Carnet De Voyage was the story of a person returning home for a funeral. The format was like a travel book with pages being turned to tell the story. The pictures were ink, pastels, water colors and pencil. Layers were used to make the images appear to have 3D depths. Subtitles were provided.

Let's Pollute was a film about how bad man is to the environment by mocking mankind and their habits. It was done with the styling of educational films from the 1950s.

I very much enjoyed The Gruffalo. When I saw the title, I thought that actor Mark Ruffalo would show up and be yelling "Grrrrrr." The style looked like claymation, but was computer generated. It's a mother squirrel telling the story of a smart mouse who outwits predators by telling them he's meeting a Gruffalo, a scary beast that happens to like the predators as ingredients for a meal.

I use a social networking program that has icons that look like different objects and animals put together as a single life form. The Lost Thing reminded me of those icons. A boy finds a lost thing on the beach. It has the body of a teapot minus the handle along with crab like claws, bells and tentacles. He wants to bring it home but realizes that it needs to live somewhere else.

The last official entry was Day & Night. It was the only one that I saw previously as it was made by Pixar and shown with last year's Toy Story 3 which is up for the Oscar's Best Animated Feature Film award. It is about two entities who meet but through their outline bodies the scenery is time shifted. It was shown in 2D but was originally processed for 3D viewing.

URS is without words. An older son attempts to move his reluctant mother to someplace better. It has dark and light and had me emotionally involved in just the short ten minutes.

Lastly was The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger. Two things on this movie. First is it goes to prove that parents, you can love your kids as much as you want, but they can still make bad decisions where they might hurt themselves. Secondly, ladies, maybe lifting weights isn't such a bad thing.

After a short break and a reload on popcorn and soda, the second "movie" began with the same lack of fanfare as the first.

This time only five shorts were shown and in order they were:
  • Na Wewe, Belgium, 19 minutes
  • The Crush, Ireland, 15 minutes
  • The Confession, UK, 26 minutes
  • Wish 143, UK, 24 minutes
  • God of Love, USA, 18 minutes
Just as the first short in animation began with subtitles, so did Na Wewe. A Belgian and his assistant break down and get picked up by a passing passenger van in Burundi. Shortly thereafter they are stopped by rebels looking to determine who is Hutu and who is Tutsi. I was uncomfortable in my seat thinking that someone might get executed just for being themselves.

What will a second grade boy do to win the affection of his teacher? The Crush examines one such scenario when the boy goes up against a competing suitor. For me the Irish brogue added a lot of charm to this selection.

This short, The Confession, had me on the edge of my seat. Usually shorts are comedy or whimsical. This was a thriller and a suspense that I wasn't expecting. A boy and his friend are getting ready for their first confession. But what will they be confessing?

A 16 year old male terminal cancer patient is asked about what he would like for his wish, Wish 143. But how will the granting organization respond when he asks to have the pleasure of experiencing intimate love for his first and probably only time before he passes away?

The last live action short was God of Love. It was a funny little film about a man who had been asking God for a year to bring him the love of his life. Is the package that showed up at his work place the answer to his prayers? As it is said, be careful what you ask for because you may get it!

If you would like to see the trailers for all of the nominated shorts or look for locations near you where you can see all of the selections, goto The trailers for the Highly Recommended films are not there. For URS trailer, Click Here. The trailer for The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger can be found Here. If you have a chance to go see them, I highly recommend it.

The Movie Monkey

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